Everett man shares 91 years of wisdom, kindness and virtue

Kids, you didn’t invent texting.

Carle Graffunder of Everett was a World War II hero who relayed military messages hither and yon from Alaska.

He used the dot-dash method.

Graffunder, who turned 91 on 11/11/11, was an expert in International Morse code, a way to transmit words on a telegraph.

Radio telegraphy using Morse code was vital during World War II, sending messages between warships and naval bases. It was used by war planes, cargo and troop ships.

It took Graffunder three months to learn Morse code.

“I remember it,” he said. “I could send something right now.”

It was my honor to spend an afternoon with him and his friend, Diane Meadows. She met him 22 years ago in a senior exercise class she teaches.

“We have been friends ever since,” Meadows said. “He has a good memory, is articulate, and loves to reminisce and philosophize.”

Born in his mother’s bedroom in Seattle in 1920, Graffunder graduated from Lincoln High School. Small world. Graffunder graduated the same year as my father, William Brayton, who also is 91, but they don’t recall one another.

Graffunder helped his family by getting odd jobs.

“I cleaned gutters,” he said. “I sold my mother’s baked goods door to door. I sold magazines.”

He joined the Army National Guard and served in the 146th Field Artillery Battalion. They learned he played the baritone horn, he said, and he played in the band for a year and a half.

He switched from field artillery to the Signal Corps. His brother told him they needed radio operators.

His first ride in a airplane was in a C-47.

“We left from Boeing Field in Seattle,” Graffunder said. “SeaTac was a dream in someone’s flipper.”

He said he couldn’t comprehend the expanse of northern Canada. It doesn’t look like someone could live there, he said.

After the war Graffunder graduated from the University of Washington and received a masters degree in 1953. He also attended a Bible college, said his daughter Carol Graffunder.

He was married twice and had seven children, she said. He reunited with his first wife, Norna, and she remained the love of his life. Her father studied and taught at many colleges and universities, Carol Graffunder said. He taught many subjects such as sociology. His daughter said he taught Morse code at Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center in Everett.

We visited in Graffunder’s room he shares with two other residents at Sunrise View Retirement Villas in Everett. He has a bookcase with history titles, a Bible, thesaurus and Bartlett’s Quotations.

He carries a small notebook to jot down thoughts that may turn into one of his many poems. Graffunder makes notes about kindness, virtue, goodness, grace, wisdom, charm and love.

His notebook contains original work by the marvelous man, Meadows said.

Some pages from his tablet:

“I sit only a breakfast table away, connected to my companion by a fading remnant of night.”

“I watched in fascination as the vision mutated from black shadow into a sultry grayness.”

“A new day should be shouldered with a joy that only gratitude for life can bring.”

Meadows said Graffunder is an amazing man of quiet elegance.

Graffunder regaled me with thoughts on our country, economy and politics. At each juncture, he leaned forward in his chair, closed his eyes and pushed his glasses up higher on his nose.

“I heard a politician condemn the welfare system,” he said. “The politician said to get ahead on your own boot straps. If he had gone through the Depression, he wouldn’t have that attitude. Read the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ or (Michael) Harrington’s ‘The Other America’. Take a primary course in logic.”

And he speaks of our younger generation.

“A great deal could be made out of the fact that young people have insufficient education to take a leadership role,” he said. “Elders have given them little courage.”

The member of Mensa said he appreciated Project Head Start, created by President Lyndon Johnson.

He softened when he spoke of his longtime friend, Meadows, who is like a daughter to him.

“This girl has been precious for 22 years,” he said.

I could understand why she said she cherishes their visits. Graffunder adjusted his glasses as I left his room.

He had a plethora of intelligent topics to discuss another day.

Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, oharran@heraldnet.com.

Carle Graffunder poems

Poems by Carle Graffunder of Everett were published in the Valley Bugler in Longview.

All Our Days

A man rises up in the morning

And lies down at night,

And the day has been spent.

The echo of sunrise in our ears

While sunset is

Sounding a retreat

And we cannot know

The length

Of our days.

Jacob’s Ladder

Whenever in the morning

I see the glow of heaven

I shall rise

To climb Jacob’s ladder

To the skies

Where in the heights my heart and mind

To freedom, liberty and independence

Will bind

Hopes and wishes of a kind

That you will hardly ever find.

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